Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One year reprieve for rural school districts

By Alannah Allbrett

A one year extension has been approved by the U.S. Congress to continue payments under the Se­cure Rural Schools (SRS) Act which has provided $3 billion dollars to rural counties which were hit hard by timber industry restrictions by the feds.

Congress authorized a one-time distribution of $346 million to 700 rural counties across 41 states. Idaho is pegged to receive $27.4 million which is a 31 percent reduction from the previous year’s funding. Since 2000, SRS funds have been supplementing school districts that otherwise would have floundered due declining shares of federal logging revenues. Environmental protection for fish and wildlife in national forests in the 1990’s forced sharp cutbacks in the timber industry and subsequent revenue it provided to school districts.

Local School Superintendent, Bob Vian, said that the district (Joint District 171) is just grateful to receive anything at this point. He believes the amount the district receives will be in the $220,000 range. It is funded to the district’s budget typically in January, but was not received in 2012 until March. Vian said he would like to see $100,000 go towards special one-time maintenance projects and the rest into a rainy-day fund. Timberline Schools need a new food mixer in their Food Service Program; that mixer alone cost over $9,000. Vian said there are so many needs right now; the board will have to determine how monies are allocated.

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